A Kentucky clerk who spent five days in jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples has been voted the state’s top news story of 2015.
Gay rights activists rejoiced in June when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned four state bans on same-sex marriage, effectively legalizing gay weddings across the country for the first time.
But the biggest resistance to the ruling did not come from a Republican presidential candidate or an evangelical pastor. It came from a soft-spoken Democrat in Morehead, Kentucky, who said her religious faith made it impossible for her to comply.
“What I believe, I cannot be separated from,” Davis said. ‘If you believe it, if you believe the word of God and you believe it and you live it and you breathe it and it is your heart, mind body and soul, you can’t be separated from that.”
Four couples, two gay and two straight, sued Davis with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The Liberty Counsel, a Florida-based law firm with a history of suing public entities over religious freedom issues, rushed to Davis’ defense. What followed were months of court rulings, political rallies, protests and a parade of satellite trucks from news agencies around the world as Kentucky became the international symbol of the same-sex marriage debate.
“Kim Davis’ legal fight over same-sex marriages challenged the court’s judgment not just in Kentucky but the entire world,” WSPD Local 6 news producer Kelly Kim said in explaining why she voted for Davis as the state’s top story of 2015. “It prompted a political debate among lawmakers, presidential candidates and forced a global review on same-sex rights. It’s a strong example of how one person managed to affect the world.”
Kentucky’s No. 2 story was the surprising election of Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who returned to politics after being shunned by state party leaders for challenging U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in the 2014 primary. Bevin campaigned on repealing kynect and the state’s expanded Medicaid program, two initiatives that have brought taxpayersubsidized health insurance to more than half a million Kentuckians.
Other stories rounding out the top 10 are:
— American Pharoah wins the Kentucky Derby en route to becoming the first triple crown winner in 37 years.
— Four die during devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky.
— A 7-year-old girl survives a plane crash that killed four people, including her parents, by walking a mile through the woods to find help.
— Distillery workers indicted in massive theft of Kentucky bourbon.
— U.S. Sen. Rand Paul runs for president and reelection to his Senate at the same time.
— Kentucky’s last union coal mine shuts down in western Kentucky.
— University of Louisville says it is investigating claims that a staffer got escorts for basketball recruits.
— Former senator, governor Wendell Ford dies.